The Wrestling Antagonist. Episode 2
WWE is changing matches, scripts and story lines because we know already?
Many years ago wrestling promoters relied on writing staffs and their plain old gut instinct on how to entertain the masses that came to watch their product. It wasn’t as long ago as you might think either. During the Monday night wars each company was carefully examining what each other did, the reactions they got for certain story lines and the gimmicks used. Even ECW was driven to too success by Paul Heyman who identified that fans wanted blood, sex, and violence. So a small company from Philadelphia was able to capture the attention of a national audience by broadcasting from a small arena that I would venture to say 99 % of the fans never even stepped into.
Today due to social media and a seemingly endless amount of sites devoted to up to the minute wrestling news and rumors, not much makes it from the afternoon creative meeting to show time without someone spilling the beans. So it’s pretty typical to read hours before the start of RAW that a major name is backstage or what creative plans to do with someone.
However something caught my attention recently that dumbfounded me. WWE was changing plans for superstars, matches, and angles due to the fact people were expecting outcomes bases on what was floating around the internet. I cite the last big Chris Jericho return as one of the best and worst examples of this. When his “End of the World” promos began we all knew it was Jericho, there was nothing WWE could do to change that, but speculation began on what the cryptic messages were implying. Wrestling journalists and fans hypothesized that it may mean he was going to bring an end to the hated “PG Era” or that we were going to see him unify the titles as he once did before. It made sense being that the World title had become irrelevant and people wanted a single champion, as made evident by the reaction to the announcement on RAW of a title vs title match at TLC. The fans erupted at the idea of there being only one. However in case you aren’t aware that match was made clear by WWE.com that it is in fact NOT a unification match, but I digress.
Well as we approached Royal Rumble people were predicting Y2J to win for sure given we were all waiting on this wrestling prophecy to be fulfilled, but then something happened, he lost.. News broke later that Vince felt it was too predictable that Y2J would win and therefore scraped the plan. Similarly to this was over the last few months someone with a Reddit user handled “Dolphin1925” was predicting matches with overwhelming accuracy. So of course WWE started changing match outcomes at the last minute to swerve fans.
The examples can go on for day but you get the point. While I’m all for secrecy and surprise in pro wrestling, which we rarely get nowadays, changing something just because we expect something doesn’t mean it’s better. I find that the major difference with wrestling now and ten years ago is I would sit and go “oh this is awesome I bet so and so is gonna hit the ring any second”, and they usually did. Now promotions make a habit of doing what you don’t expect rather than what you want. That’s not “good for business”. Take it a step further, WWE has made it ritual to promo a returning superstar to death now rather than letting fans be surprised. This is a marketing ploy to try and woo people into watching, rather than appease regular fans. When RVD returned to WWE people knew he had been in negotiations after leaving TNA, and if he had just showed up unexpected at Money in the Bank the roof would have come off the building. Purchasers of the PPV would have felt they got their money’s worth even if the card sucked, but instead they wanted to influence a higher buy rate. So now we know not to expect big returns and things of that nature as a casual PPV customer. So sure you influence viewership for an event or two but not long term fans.
Watch any popular show on TV right now, Sons of Anarchy, Game of Thrones(unless you read the books), The Walking Dead, or True Blood. The reason they are popular is because they leave you wanting more at the end and eager to tune in next week to see what’s going to happen. This is the format pro wrestling once utilized to keep us entertained. You never knew for certain who was gonna show up or what was going to happen, even if you were anticipating it. It’s where the phrase “Monday night RAW where anything can happen” phrase was coined. Is that still that case, or is it now “Where anything can happen…unless it leaked online then I guarantee it won’t.”
Thanks guys follow me on twitter I’d love to hear your thoughts, comments, and suggestions about what’s got you upset in the world of wrestling. @MikeyPellerito